Mobile Fashion: Google’s Project Ara

January 23rd, 2015 by

We take a look at how the fashion world crept up on technology, following Google’s ‘modular phone’ prototype announcement.

The technical gurus at Google HQ have unveiled their plans to pilot a modular phone on which components can be swapped and customised. While this will supposedly increase the lifespan of the device, the main positive seems to be that each component will be fully customisable, creating a new way for us to modify our communication devices.

I’ve been buying phone cases ever since I dropped my very first iPhone down the stairs and suffered the disastrous screen smash which has had so many Apple customers in dismay. More than a way to prevent screen smash, however, phone cases have become big business as they allow us to bring a little personality to our phones. For example, at any phone or gadgetry shop you’ll find a plethora of phone cases for various models, with designs ranging from football club logos to Mickey Mouse.

There have been some incredibly whacky phone cases on the market for some time, with high fashion even getting involved. This Moschino iPhone case, which doubles as a vanity mirror for any on-the-go lipgloss needs, retails at £45, and is a big hit with the ladies (could be one for this year’s Christmas stocking for wives, girlfriends, or selves!).

Google have been on the smartphone scene for some time, having announced their Nexus One in January 2010. The Nexus One, manufactured by HTC, is said to be the smartphone that pushed things forward due to its large screen design, but it wasn’t a commercial hit. Since the unveiling of the Nexus One just over five years ago, Google has partnered with Samsung and LG on its Nexus offerings, creating smartphones such as the Galaxy Nexus (with Samsung, pegged as the original Galaxy and reason for the success of the Samsung Galaxy phones) and Nexuses 4 and 5 with LG, both of which sold pretty well and got good reviews.

On January 14th, Google held their second developer conference for Project Ara, unveiling plans to pilot their new phone in Puerto Rico. Jon Erensen, an analyst at the Gartner consultancy, described how “[removable] modules can include cameras, batteries, displays, the application processor, wireless connectivity, blood-sugar monitors, laser pointers, pico projectors, or any other number of items that will be held in the shell by magnets”. The ability for us to pick and choose the gadgetry we operate on our phones could be a real market pleaser, but many are speculating that it will be the ways in which we can alter the way the phone looks that will have people digging into their pockets for one; the phone will be produced in grey to encourage customisation.

So why is the way our phone looks so important to us?

The evolution of telecommunication has come a long way. Soon there will be few people around who remember even the early mobile phone days of the Nokia 3210 and its incredible game ‘Snake’, and even fewer people will remember Samuel Morse’s groundbreaking invention of the telegraph in 1838. Ever since those early handsets became available, the ability to customise the way our devices sound and look has been important (remember keying in your monophonic ringtone?). The human thirst for the ‘next big thing’ in fashion extends way past our day-to-day clothing; as wearable tech sneaks onto the ‘en vogue’ list the market have one requirement: that it looks good.

So will the new Google modular phone be a must-have accessory this coming year? Or will it go straight to the ‘what not to wear’ columns of magazines? We’re not yet sure…

Project Ara, having only announced their plan to pilot the phone yesterday, will perhaps not be ready to hit the catwalk this year. Tech gurus at The Verge gave the handset a spin; their image gallery shows the phone in its naked form and when ‘dressed up’ in personalised modules.

Watch this space, smartphone world!

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